Monday, June 30, 2014

Veggie Garden Triumphs and Tragedies

It's been a long while since I last wrote a Triumphs and Tragedies post.  Not sure what my excuse is but it's high time I got back at it.  One thing I've realized over the last four years of blogging is that my failures garner just as much or more attention than my achievements.  You can find pretty pictures of flowers and vegetables anywhere but can you find a picture of a dead cucumber seedling on anyone else's blog?


This was the case recently when someone emailed me from New Hampshire.  They were looking for a photo of a dead cucumber for their newsletter.  The newsletter article was discussing how cucumber seedlings can wilt and die quickly due to temperature fluctuations.  Apparently my photo was the only one to be found on the internet.

Now this isn't necessarily the kind of attention I hope for when I blog, but it is gratifying to hear that my errors help other people in some way.  And it makes me realize the value in my failures.  We can all learn from my mistakes.

With that in mind I bring you my 2014 spring vegetable garden.


I was very proud today as I weeded, watered and trimmed the entire garden.  It looks pretty darn good I think.  Every year this garden looks better.  More varieties of plants, healthier plants, and a longer growing season.  Part of the reason is better soil. When I started growing veggies in this spot the soil was less than stellar.  Each season I have put down a variety of amendments in hopes of improvement.  Lime, bloodmeal, bonemeal, manure, mushroom compost and my own compost all have gone into these beds and the results are really showing.  Spinach that was spotted and stunted the first year is now healthy dark green with large leaves.


I'm also trying new varieties of veggies each year, spreading my wings.  Some are hits and some are misses.  Swiss chard planted last season looked beautiful but didn't get eaten.  Kale planted this year has been a huge hit.  I planted kale thinking the baby leaves would be good in salad, which they were.  But now we are cooking up the big leaves as well to freeze for winter to add to pasta sauces and soups.

Chard was pretty but neither of us wanted to eat it.
Another triumph is how we have expanded the length of our season.  My thanks go out to Niki Jabour and her book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener.  This book has become my go to guide on Atlantic Canada vegetable gardening.  There is tons of great advice on every vegetable imaginable but Niki also showed me that vegetable gardening doesn't have to be limited to a couple short months.  With a little planning and know how I can plant peas and spinach as soon as the snow melts and be eating salads by June.

That said, I also refer to this book a lot when things go wrong.  Like this.


What's that you say?  Doesn't look like anything.

Exactly.

I have tried for two years now to grow parsnips.  This is the results of my effort.  A bare patch of ground.  Frustrated I finally went to my books the other day and discovered that parsnip seed doesn't last.  In fact, even fresh seed doesn't have great germination rates.  So the seed I planted  last year that didn't germinate ......  right, it's not going to germinate this year either.  Mark that one down as a tragedy.

Fresh seed is the lesson of the day I think.  Radishes were also a bust this year.  I managed to pick two.  I planted somewhere around 30.  Could be because the seed is 5 years old?  Probably time to buy a new packet.

Germination rates are also a problem even with fresh seed.  Did I mention that it took two tries to get the spinach growing this year?  Only about 10% of the first packet germinated.   So I had to go back a second time and replant.  I had about 60% germination the second time around and thankfully we now have spinach.  But next year I'm buying two packs straight off and planting it all.

So there you have it, lessons learned and shared.  How about you?  What have you learned in the garden lately?

30 comments:

  1. Your veggie beds are beautiful. It all comes down to the soil doesn't it? Your garden looks so neat and tidy. The spinach...yummm. I have learned that my veggie garden isn't big enough. I didn't start early enough either. bahh humbug. There is always next year. I will be better prepared and I will have new seeds. :)

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    1. Thank you Lisa. You know I took a picture only after I weeded and trimmed right? ;-) My garden won't look this good again until next year. The nice thing about veggie gardens is you can start all over from scratch the next year. All mistakes are erased :)

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  2. Wow the spring vegetable garden is amazing!! Sorry about the parsnips. But I love that you don't let those things get you down :)

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    1. Thanks Keith. Hard to get down about one rotten thing when so much good has happened too. Part of gardening is enjoying the highs and the lows I think.

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  3. Marguerite girl even though I don't grow veggies (but I am a herboholic!) I find your posts on how you are doing with your veggies really interesting .. and since I have lived on the east coast a lot I understand the weather problems too. I think that is a HOOT your cucumber picture is a little famous now girl ! No matter the cause exposure is fun ? LOL
    Joy : )
    PS .. I wish lots of baby butterflies your way too!

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    1. Thanks Joy! The weather here has been a big learning curve for me. As of this weekend we're in hurricane season which is yet another issue I never had before coming here. Always fun to look at different climate zones and see what other people have to face. The humidity out your way would turn me into a puddle for the whole summer I think.

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  4. braver than I am (and in a more difficult climate). You try and succeed, and even supply a very rare photo on demand.

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    1. I don't know if my climate is really more difficult, just different. I'm sure there are many challenges you have that would never occur to me.

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  5. Yes, I have learned several lessons this year. I planted my tomatoes too close together...really dumb, because I know better! And I am having an awful time with carrots this year. Have no idea why.
    Now, the battle with the potato bug begins.
    :-)

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    1. Carla, carrot seed is another that's always troublesome for me. Only about half came up and I seeded too thickly so much of that will need to be thinned. I tend to cramp my tomatoes too :) I'm always trying to get more into my space than I should.

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  6. Failures are far more interesting than successes and I do believe we learn more from them ! My latest failure has been growing Coleus from seed. I sowed the seed i early March and they are still only about 5cm tall ! Why haven't they grown !!

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    1. I've had that same issue with other seeds too. Not sure why that happens. I tried watermelon this year, which sprouted, but then it just stopped. For weeks. I haven't got a clue why they do that. Could be temperature, or not enough nutrition? If you figure it out let me know.

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  7. I'm so impressed with your vegetable garden, Marguerite! It all looks so neat and tidy, and the vegetables look like they are thriving. I just finished weeding my small veggie patch and am waiting on some straw to mulch it before the weeds get out of control again. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who planted swiss chard and didn't eat it:) But it was pretty! I ran out of room to plant kale this year, but I still have some in the freezer from last year's planting, and I'm hoping I might be able to put some seeds in a late season planting once the green beans are done. My biggest failure is always the squash and zucchini--seems like the squash bugs get them before I do. This year my plants are huge, and I've vowed to be vigilant to get those little pests before they devour the squash.

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    1. It's a trick Rose!! I weeded and trimmed and THEN photographed :) I've been very fortunate it seems. I haven't had an issue with squash bugs yet and I grow zucchini and pumpkins every year. Hope that stays true as I have enough troubles with tomato blight and wireworms.

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  8. I realized when I started my third garden from scratch that it takes way longer than I thought to build up the soil. I've learned to label my seed packets , seed I've saved and seed I've bought, with the year. I constantly refer to the table in my book, How To Save your Own Seeds- from seeds of diversity- that lists viability rates for plant seeds.

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    1. Melanie, you are far more vigilant than I. I have tried in the past to label my seed packets but inevitably I forget. and I have learned, for some plants you just cannot use old seed. I have that same book! wonderful information and so useful.

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  9. I learned today that I really need to stake/support my zinnias if I'm going to grow them in a pot because our summer storms always destroy them. I'm waiting til morning for the final death toll. :( Your beds look so tidy and organized. I love the chard! Beautiful!

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    1. Staking is definitely on my mind this morning. We have our first tropical storm of the season yesterday and today will be spent viewing the wreckage. Proper support is absolutely necessary for so many plants. and of course I never think of it till it's too late!!

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  10. Considering the few failures your garden is looking spot on, and it is great that your are producing so much to eat under difficult circumstances.. Some seed gives good germination for years, others can be a bit unreliable, but as you say, you live and learn.

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    1. Thanks Elaine. Every year my veggie gardens gives me some trouble or other but I always manage to produce more than enough. I've been quite lucky I think.

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  11. Thanks for sharing your mistakes with us, I have also written some posts about things I struggle with in my garden, and got at least as many comments back as when I post photos of nice flowers, yes we all learn from other people’s mistakes, as well as our own. I had two attempts at growing tomatoes from seed this year, in my too dark kitchen, before giving up and simply buying tomato plants. I will do that every year from now on!

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    1. So true Helene. Posts about mistakes always attract just as much attention. I actually like reading about other people's mistakes too. There's always something for me to learn.

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  12. Growing plants from seed is challenging. A novice might think it is fairly straightforward, but there are so many things that can go wrong.
    I don't know if this is helpful: I was watching Gardener's World online and good old Monty sows radishes along with his parsnips. Apparently the radishes mature and are ready for harvest just as the parsnips germinate.

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    1. Hi Jennifer, I've heard that trick about radishes with carrots. Parsnips and carrots are so similar it probably works the same. Good idea. So true about growing from seed. I always give it a go but quite often I fail more than grow things. Seeds can be awfully picky.

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  13. Amei conhecer o seu blog, já fiquei por aqui!!!Achei maravilhoso!!!Visite-me:http://algodaotaodoce.blogspot.com.br/
    Siga-me e pegue o meu selinho!!!

    Obrigada.

    Beijos Marie.

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    1. I wish I could read this. I visited your blog and really liked the house decorating images. Lots of great ideas there.

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  14. Salads by June? Sounds wonderful and darn near impossible this year! I'm going to get me a copy of that book- I need all the help I can get. Your beds look so tidy - things are really coming along!

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    1. Jane, I would highly recommend this book. Lots of information on individual plants and on gardening in the east in general. It really has made such a huge difference to me and I haven't even tried half the ideas she has put out.

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  15. I've always loved your Triumphs and Tragedy posts! You are quite right about posts showing pretty photos and not the dreaded failures so I have taken that under consideration. Right now, there's a groundhog on my property, found cucumber beetles last night and well...))) Missed this post M...so late commenting. Your veg garden looks fantastic..just fantastic. Enjoy the fruits of your labours!

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    1. So good to hear from you Brenda! better late than never. So often I just want to take pretty pictures - focus on the positive right? but then I feel the need to come clean about my goofs and the response is so positive that I remember how informative it is for other people. .. and it keeps me humble :)

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